‘Hamilton’ creator Lin-Manuel Miranda sends touching letter to grieving mom

Jordan Schuman was brilliant. She was sharp and a bona fide news woman. She had the most perfect dimples, big mesmerizing blue eyes and red hair that matched her fiery personality. There was no ego to her and she was too smart for her age. She always rocked a stellar pair of heels and red lipstick. She took nothing for granted. She loved the rush of breaking news just as much as the butterflies of telling a story with a happy ending. She was every newsroom’s dream.

Jordan was also a total theater geek. She once said, “Without the arts, my brother and I would be nothing.” They had both attended Stagedoor Manor as kids, he continued with his career in theater and she went on to journalism. She would send snapchat videos to her friends singing along to “The Book of Mormon” soundtrack. She was such a happy person. 

For these and many other reasons she is sorely missed.

Jordan passed away last December in a terrible car accident. She was 22 years old. Before her passing, her mother Peri Appollo Schacknow had managed to get tickets to go see "Hamilton" on Broadway the next month. So in January, the grieving mom found herself with these two precious tickets — but she couldn’t go. 

She was mourning the loss of her baby girl just as the Hamilton’s grieved the loss of their son in the musical. 

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Despite her grief, she found it in her heart to think of others: “The only way I will ever be able to come close to making sense of Jordan's death is by having something good come out of it,” she said. 

Peri crafted a heartfelt email with the subject, “A Huge and Deeply Meaningful Favor.” She sent the email to nearly every address she could find to anyone associated with Hamilton. In an email addressed to Lin-Manuel Miranda, the star and creator of "Hamilton," she described what her life had been like in the days following Jordan’s passing. 

“I have spent the last 10 days or so suspended in the space between the last time I spoke with her, about 25 minutes before the crash, and the crushing reality of never getting to speak with her again,” she wrote.

Peri explained she wanted to donate the two tickets and maybe reschedule for another time. "Hamilton" was already sold out for the foreseeable future and she knew she was asking for a lot.

A few hours later she received a response from Luis Miranda, Lin-Manuel’s dad. He said that he would share the email with his son the next day and that her the tickets would be donated to a foster parent and child through Graham Windham. Graham Windham is an orphanage co-founded by Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton. Peri’s tickets would be rescheduled.

In July, Peri and her husband finally got their chance to see Hamilton and loved it. “You’ve heard it all. Everything you’ve heard is true. And then some," she said. "The show wiped me out. It grabbed me in, held me close, chewed me up, and spat me out. It was everything we thought it would be. And more.” 

Months passed and last week Peri received an unexpected letter in the mail, “I opened the envelope carefully, not wanting to disturb whatever was inside, and took it out as delicately as I could. There, staring at me, was a handsome postcard headshot of Lin. His eyes looked right into mine. I turned the card over and read his thoughtful response to me.” 

His letter read:

“Dear Peri,
The threat of being mawkish instead of sincere often hangs over any letter. I assure you, in your words, I feel nothing but a sincere and beautiful kindness. To outlive one’s child is a fate I would wish on no parent. But, in the face of tragedy, your kindness and generosity knows no bounds. Jordan would be proud. I hope you enjoy the show and overcome your grief.
Lin-Manuel Miranda”

Peri was beyond touched. “He took the time to really read my letter. I had been worried about being too sentimental and melodramatic when I wrote to him, but he read my true thoughts. He understood. Lin-Manuel, the writer, felt my words and was touched the way I had intended. Wow.”

Peri misses her daughter every day, “She was kindness, intelligence, curiosity, warmth, generosity, friendship, and understanding, all wrapped up in a vibrant, beautiful package.” But, Jordan’s memory lives on through the Jordan Schuman Foundation for Kindness, the Jordan Schuman Scholarship, and through #cheerstoJordan, a hashtag created by her incredibly strong and resilient mother.

**Disclosure: Jordan was my friend. We met while working in the same newsroom about two years ago.**

Victoria Moll-Ramirez is a freelance reporter based in New York City.

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